Valentine's M-Commerce Proves Christmas Was No Mobile Fluke

Victoria-Secret-AppCupid’s arrow struck the heart of mobile commerce last week, at pretty much the same spot softened up by the previous holiday shopping season. According to IBM Benchmark, the patterns of mobile shopping we saw emerge in late 2011 around the big shopping season actually indicate a shift in behaviors. “Mobile shopping remains a staple of the retail landscape whether through iPhone, iPad or Android device,” says IBM’s Director of Marketing and Analytics John Squire at the company’s Smarter Planet blog.

Just as researchers found last holiday that somewhere between 12% and 15% of retail site traffic was coming from devices, the week leading up to Valentine’s Day showed 14.5% of traffic initiated by devices. Shopping by mobile is still more robust than actual buying, but 10.1% of online sales for the week were coming from mobile devices.

It is in the comparison between last year’s Valentine’s Day and this one within specific e-commerce verticals that we see the sheer velocity of this mobilization of the shopping experience. In the health and beauty category, mobile site traffic escalated from 6.92% of overall activity last year to 17.82% this year. In jewelry, it rose from 9.51% to 21.65%. And in intimate apparel, it leaped from 8.29% to an incredible 24.06%.

“What this tells us is that the mobile shopping habits witnessed over the November and December holidays are not fleeting,” writes Squire. “They’re actually quite the opposite. A permanent change is in effect with the empowered consumer turning to mobile devices not just for blockbuster shopping days but for all holidays and shopping occasions in between.”

That is right. Nearly a quarter of traffic to intimate apparel came from handsets and tablets. We are guessing Victoria’s Secret’s mobile site was going ballistic last week. And that speaks to the role of mobile in impulse (or panic) purchasing. Mobile sales of jewelry rose to 28.8% of the e-commerce pie this year, with mobile accounting for 17.7% of intimate apparel online purchases.

Overall, mobile sales tripled over the Valentine’s Week last year. Also following holiday patterns, iOS devices accounted for over 10% of traffic, with iPhones responsible for 5.5% and iPads for 4.9%. The disproportionate power of the iPad (in terms of relative penetration) to m-commerce (now dubbed "T-Commerce") is the story to watch this year.

Last year we talked about the new influence of mobile in retail and how it gave the savvy marketer a chance to influence and inform purchasing closer to the point of sale. As m-commerce picks up steam this year -- perhaps faster than many expected -- the new reality is that mobile makes “point of sale” anywhere, anytime and from any place.  

Those are not numbers to be trifled with. Just as we saw last year mobile shopping help alter the ways in which people booked hotel rooms (increasingly close to the time and place of immediate need), mobile may also be the venue for that last-second shopper -- the eleventh hour, 59th-minute Cupid. 

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